I'm an ex-designer, now what?

hi All,
I’m new here, but I’ve been in the industrial design sector for 8 years.

i have an existentialist dilemma,
I hope someone can help me to see it clear.

I got a degree in industrial design (8 years ago, BA Hns),
I had a very successful degree (best of class, exhibitions…)
I did some internships in product design.
I started my own design firm, which I ran successfully for 3 years.

Then I started to work on projects about “design research”, “User Studies”, “Design Management”, “innovation”…
and I ended up in a “consultancy” (think Ideo or Smartdesign) doing user research and concept design, but mainly focused on business development, project planning, blah blah blah.

I did it very successfully but I realized that I had no passion for this,
and I quit after 4 years.

after some guest lectures in some universities and some contract projects as “innovation consultant” I find myself looking for a job…

the dilemma is:
I have been so much time without “designing” that any recent-graduate has better “product designer” skills than me.

I find myself being an ex-designer,
and having expertise in something I don’t want to do anymore (design consultancy boring bullshit)

I’m thinking in abandon the design field and start again in another sector…

any advise?
where a mind like mine could go to knock doors?
thanks so much

my passion is in
explore, experiment and discover
I love the unknown,
I enjoy doing things I have no idea how to do them,

I think it is time to switch sector,
and apply all I learned into another industry…
but I’m afraid of it…

anyone is an ex-designer like me?
is there anyone that studied and worked as designer and now is working as something else… like gardener?

now I’m thinking in starting a fruit-shop in NY,
with all I learned (branding, strategy, user needs, packaging…) I think it might be very successful…

thanks in advance for your thoughts,
the ex-designer

grad school. from what i hear, you need to wait a few years after undergrad to really get what you need out of it. If you want to keep learning, maybe try some new things, experiment etc. you would be able to do that there.

Not your only option, but from what you said above, you might look into it.

Perhaps you were designing the wrong products. Maybe going into a more crafts based approach might be more meaningful. I’ve been doing this for 5 years now, I have no connection to what I learned in school and to what I’m doing now. Everything I design is based around a bottom line. If I didn’t make it as a designer, I was going to go back to school to be a butcher. Somehow I found solace in manual labor. Or maybe it’s because I’m a foreigner…who knows.

grad school yes, more explorations.
you sound like the perfect engineer, the inventor kind.

check out software design. after having worked as one a few years ago, it parallels many development principles with industrial design and there is plenty of scope for ‘out of the box’ thinking and innovation. it can bridge from user experience and interface design and open up a lot of opportunities…

If this is your goal…

“explore, experiment and discover
I love the unknown,
I enjoy doing things I have no idea how to do them,”

…Then why is design not satisfying you? Particularly at a consulting firm where you never know what you’re going to design next?

There’s no shame in starting a fruit shop, if you’re being serious. A lot of designers think they will be in consulting all their lives, but honestly, it’s a tough pace of life. Late hours, lots of travel, crazy deadlines, on the end of a client’s short leash… I think starting your own business (on any scale) would be an amazing chance to test your skills in creating and launching a product/service-- think of all the touchpoints you’ll need to design!

In Chicago, a couple of designers recently opened a coffee shop, and it’s by far the most impeccably designed coffee shop experience in town…


I may also be an ex-designer (in the sense of being formally employed)

I just started getting into Core77 forums, and found your post. I can really relate.

I was well educated in ID, and well employed in what should have been a glamorous career. However it took me almost 5 years to learn that we were not the right fit, and how dispassionate I was of the subject matter and the bureaucracy of that industry.

I am an entrepreneur at heart and have been self employed now for almost 8 years creating all kinds of things three dimensionally. Its VERY tough sometimes, but when I’m not struggling to make my financial commitments it is the best thing ever. I’m always learning new lessons in design, creativity, and about myself. I’ll always be growing and redefining what success is to me. The best part, and the also the biggest challenge, is that I am only bound by my own creativity and my own technical skills of my craft.

Do you have entrepreneurial tendencies? Or are you the least stressed when you can count on an employer for your livelihood?

romy1, ditto!

However, I am embarking, or rather resuming my journey from long hiatus from the design world albeit with a different lens and perspective.

Sadly for older designers there is more challenge to getting your foot in the door because of obvious issues. I have seen people turned away because of things like:
-dated portfolios
-not managable personalities because of the “I have experience attitude”
-too many family responsibilities
-too much high pay expectation

Ask yourself why would a company hire a a forty something designer who expects 60K or more when they can get the same results with less baggage, newer ideas and better trainability attitude at a cheaper price. These fresh college grads are so desperate they will work for peanuts just to start designing.

Master Degree
What’s the point. Unless you have some friends in big places who can ensure you will get that director’s position of you are on the executive track you’re wasting money. Think twice on this one.

Re-educating yourself in another field is a good idea.

I encourage anyone to pursue design if that’s your desire but please be aware that the career for a typical designer is very short.

I wish someone had told me the truth about design when I was in design school. It’s not all stars and glamour. From my graduating class of 27 only 8 people are working in the bizz. That’s the sad fact. A master’s means nothing in design. Just another way to take your money.

It’s true, you don’t see a lot of 40 year old industrial designers in corporations these days unless they’re managing the process instead of designing. I count myself in that group. To satisfy my need to be creative (and fuel my designer ego) I have a VERY active freelance business. By the time you’re in your forties you should have built-up a significant network of people that can feed projects to you. Web sites such as LinkedIn are as powerful a networking tool as a Coroflot portfolio.

Sadly there aren’t any dual track design-centric corporations that come to mind that allow an older designer to be rewarded ($$) and still allow him/her to do what they do best - design. The dual track system eliminates the awful practice of promoting someone into management just to give them a salary boost. At a certain point in your career you’re able to choose between becoming a manager in your field or a “Senior Fellow” in your field. This is common in science, but not so much in design. Too bad.

As far as a second career after design, I went back and got an MBA degree and went over to the dark side - Marketing. It still allows me to interact with the product development process and the pay is MUCH better than anything you will ever get as a designer. I also do a lot of internal Skunkworks design projects. It’s not quite the same, but it will have to do.

I’ve been designing products since 1986. I’ve got a Masters in Design Management (1994). I’ve worked for a consultant, as a consultant, on staff at Fortune 100 corporations (for one of the most recognizable brands on the planet) and as an industrial design educator.

The lesson (22 years in the making): be positive and flexible about how you apply “design”.

Design is a way of thinking about and acting in the world. Fruit stands and coffee shops, ipods and running shoes, all benefit from design thinking and design action.

Everyone in my class of 12 (1985) still uses the design education (ID) that we worked so hard to get. Some are still in ID, some are educators, some are managers and some have started other careers that benefit from design. Like my classmates, when I want to try some new industry or job I apply design thinking and activity and I generally get what I’m after.

Good Luck

But all those numbers make my head hurt.

I’m of the late to ID variety. I went back to school to get the degree at 30- now at 38, I’m wondering if I can grow a career in a way that is satisfying.

Here in Portland, I often consider taking up a venture that is more ‘craft’ based…rather than consulting/freelance. There seems to be a bit of that going on here.

Seems like the ID masters is for aspiring teachers or managers.

This may be out of tune with other comments or even what I said earlier, but I was just watching the tv, and some silly lexus commercial just came on and I thought of this discussion. They were talking about “thats start a business, sell it and start another type of luxury… blablabla”

Why don’t you do that, If you’re anything like me, and it sounds like you may have this problem currently, you have a hard time being challenged. I’m not trying to say I’m this super genius that has all the answers to all the problems but starting a business with one of your ideas would involve your time, your capitol, and would succeed or fail on your head.

We’re starting a small softgoods company, and I have to say I haven’t been challenged like this in a while, like since school ended. Nothing like building things with your hands, whether it be piece of furniture or a prosperous business.

One word plastics - your signature:

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity…

…is a bad analogy. But I appreciate yours and everyone else’s comments - as an ID student, it’s good to hear these things going into it.

I guess take my two cents for what it’s worth, I think the most important thing is having the ability to find what it is that you are passionate for. Most of us know what it is that we LOVE to do, we hold back because we feel the risk envolved with the change (financial, family and etc)

For the designer like yourself (ex-designer) your biggest asset is problem solving. No one can really tell you what it is that you are passionate about but yourself. With the amount of experience that you have I am sure once you find what you LOVE to do, you will find a way to do it, after all you used to get paid to solve problems.